The Obama Administration unveiled Wednesday a national clean water framework that affirms its comprehensive commitment to ensuring clean water and healthy waterways for American families, communities and the economy.
"Clean water has been a priority for this administration from day one," said Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "We are working across Federal agencies, across levels of government and across sectors to use the tools in our toolbox to make sure Americans have the clean and healthy waters they deserve."
Sutley says that they are using the latest science to improve drinking water standards, giving farmers incentives to continue being good stewards, updating the nation's water policies and partnering with states, communities and stakeholders to restore valuable but deteriorating natural systems around the country.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson talked about the draft guidance EPA has released that clarifies where the Clean Water Act applies nationwide.
"Over the past decade interpretations of Supreme Court rulings unnecessarily limited the scope of Federal protection for our waters, narrowing the definition of waters or wetlands that are protected under the Clean Water Act," Jackson said. "Today about 117 million Americans get their drinking water from sources that lack clear protection from pollution."
Jackson says the guidance released will help restore protection to waters using principles outlined by the Supreme Court and provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected under the law.
"In contrast to previous guidance, our guidance will be transparently developed and open for 60 days of public comment," Jackson said. "This will allow all stakeholders to provide input before we finalize the guidance. EPA and the Army Corps will follow up with rulemaking using what we learn and providing further opportunities for public comment on the scope of clean water protection."
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says America's farmers, ranchers and forested landowners believe very deeply in preserving our soil and protecting our water and he thinks it's important for USDA to respond to that ethic with actions consistent with the President's commitment to clean water.
"We've begun a very aggressive assessment of conservation practices by landowners," Vilsack said. "Conservation is working. Voluntary site-specific conservation works. We know that a suite of practices is most effective and that it must be coupled with nutrient management and we are providing assistance and help to producers to ensure they maximize conservation benefits."
Vilsack says he found the EPA announcement very consistent and reflective of the work being done at the USDA in rural communities across the United States.
"I'm pleased to note that the guidelines reflect an understanding and appreciation for what farmers are currently doing on the land," Vilsack said. "It preserves existing exemptions for certain agricultural practices including prior converted croplands, areas involving irrigation ditches, stock ponds and the like. We recognize that farmers are willing to step up and we at USDA are anxious to work with our sister agencies in a way that advances this clean water effort."